How can we create a world in which more people want to go to the theatre?

Convener(s):  Mark

Participants: Sorry – not taken.  However Ollie, even though he wasn’t here, was v helpful. 

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Are we only speaking to ourselves?


Going to theatre (compared with TV/cinema) a much bigger investment – personal and financial.

If it’s rubbish – we’re much more let down

  • Because we’re more emotionally engaged
  • Because there is a connection, a shared experience, a collaboration with an audience

Its history, norms and etiquette – intimidate and unsettle

It’s for ‘smarter, more intellectual types than me’ - ‘I don’t want to pay to feel stupid’

They make you work – most films give it on a plate

Time limited and have to be there at an exact time

It’s dull quite often – 50/50 chance of seeing something good

When it’s brilliant it becomes inaccessible

Too expensive

‘I ought to go more often’ – common attitude – guilt not treat

Get ‘em young

1st experience often from reading texts (Shakespeare) at schools.  Child often learns it is boring.  Reading a text is not a theatre experience.

Too late by teens – competition, media noise (ubiquitous TV and cinema marketing) and cynicism

High School Musical and Andrew Lloyd Webber do a service to all theatre. Much as Harry Potter does a service to literature.  Engages and enthuses the young.

Casting stars – generally considered a good thing in exposing a child to our world.  Bigger responsibility on creators to make those shows excellent.

Too much theatre not child-friendly.  Money and attitudes of theatres and audiences are barriers.

Make it good – often school trips to terrible theatre.  We’ve got to give them the best.


We can enthuse about theatre without calling it theatre.

One brilliant experience may be all that is needed.

Doesn’t have to be in a building.

It could be a big event

Large scale street theatre, Liverpool’s spider, London’s elephant

Flash mob theatre

To engage we need to be relevant to people’s lives and experience.

Punchdrunk’s Faust – ‘just like a computer game’

Learn from music industry – it’s everywhere – creating demand for live experience.

Inclusion schemes to provide financial help – Shoreditch scheme.

Unsure if ‘pay what you can’ works.

Location, location, location

Get out into the community – bring theatre to the people.

More community and youth theatre – involve in the process

Example: Roundabout Theatre, New York

Active programme of practitioners being sent out to their community groups, schools and organizations

Showcase the best possible talent (stars et al) and take it out to wherever the people are.

Buildings in diff parts of cities and use the local experience.

Arcola – pulling in huge local audience with relevant material

Work with technology

A nuclear war is probably the only way we’ll get back to the basics of storytelling and theatre.  Theatre has been usurped by technology (the screen).

Theatre should collaborate with the technology – utilise new media and the almost-live experience.

Example: Berlin – creating a totally digital concert hall – listen is via the internet at home.

Example: The Met Opera, New York broadcasting live to cinemas around the world.  A good theatrical experience – with background and other info (including editing) which helps the uninitiated.

More almost live-experiences to follow on tv, cinema and via the internet. 

Putting it together, the National Theatre of Scotland a great model

Addressing relevant Scottish issues, using Scottish people in a Scottish way

Issues (Black Watch / Shetlands) that are relevant and matter to their community. 

Taking theatre excellence out to the communities

Sense of community ownership

Addendum – with additional participants

Casting stars can do damage if it trains audience to expect their presence  (Nottingham Playhouse – casting stars worked at box office for a while – when that casting ended the audience dropped to pre-star level.)

Pantomimes can create a skewed image to the new theatergoer.  Perhaps not the introduction they are credited as.  When newbie attends their next theatre performance, it is a completely different experience.  Plus is a load of sports/soap stars badly mugging self indulgent and self-referential innuendo that goes over the child’s head probably isn’t helping.   Scottish panto an honourable exception to this.